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Pardo's free kick helps Chicago down Vancouver

Pavel Pardo picked a wonderful time to score his first goal of the Major League Soccer season.

The former Mexico international connected on a free kick in the early going to give the Chicago Fire a lead that they never relinquished as they held on to claim a 1-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Toyota Park on Saturday.

The win lifts Chicago (9-6-4) into a tie with Red Bull New York - the Red Bulls host Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday - for third place in the Eastern Conference on 31 points apiece.

Vancouver (8-6-6) has lost two straight and is winless in its last three, remaining tied with the Sounders for third place in the West on 30 points apiece.

Chicago went in front after just 10 minutes when Dominic Oduro's blazing run was brought to a halt with a foul from Jun Davidson just outside the box.

Pardo stepped up to take the ensuing free kick, bending a shot over the wall and past the outstretched hand of Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

The Fire came close to doubling that advantage on two occasions inside the opening 10 minutes of the second half, only to be denied by the assistant referee. Oduro attempted both chances, hitting the woodwork with the first and finding the back of the net with the second, but was flagged offside twice just minutes apart.

The home side was made to sweat it out in the second half after Arne Friedrich was sent off for picking up his second yellow card of the match, but the Fire held on to take three massive points and get back to winning ways.

Chicago will look to build upon the win in its next outing as it faces New York at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday. Vancouver returns home for a match the same day, welcoming the Los Angeles Galaxy to BC Place for a crucial Western Conference clash.